Picture of the Day: The Pale Blue Dot (Mars Edition)
[June 5, 2017] Using the most powerful telescope ever sent to Mars, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught a view of the Curiosity rover this month amid rocky mountainside terrain.
The car-size rover, climbing up lower Mount Sharp toward its next destination, appears as a blue dab against a background of tan rocks and dark sand in the enhanced-color image from the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. The exaggerated color, showing differences in Mars surface materials, makes Curiosity appear bluer than it really looks.
The image was taken on June 5, 2017, two months before the fifth anniversary of Curiosity’s landing near Mount Sharp on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6, 2017, EDT and Universal Time).
When the image was taken, Curiosity was partway between its investigation of active sand dunes lower on Mount Sharp, and “Vera Rubin Ridge,” a destination uphill where the rover team intends to examine outcrops where hematite has been identified from Mars orbit.
As in previous HiRISE color images of Curiosity since the rover was at its landing site, the rover appears bluer than it really is. HiRISE color observations are recorded in a red band, a blue-green band and an infrared band, and displayed in red, green and blue. This helps make differences in Mars surface materials apparent, but does not show natural color as seen by the human eye.
HiRISE obtains images of Curiosity a few times each year. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado.